5 Ways to Include Yourself in the Online Math Community – Without Being on Twitter

Sara Van Der Werf

Teacher, Minneapolis South High School

MCTM Past President

I am often asked “Sara, where do you find all the stuff you use in your mathematics classroom?” and for the last 5 years the answer has continued to be the same, “MTBoS!   90% of my personal PD and resources these days come from the online community of math educators.  You must join in this community.”  I then try to convince them to join twitter and offer to help them get started in a variety of ways.

Over the last year or 2 I’ve accepted the fact that there is a rather large subset of educators that love the #MTBoS resources I send out as links or share at sessions I lead, but they are not even close to ready to join twitter.  This post is for you.  In an effort to get more math teachers in my home state of Minnesota to join the #MTBoS community I’ve pulled together a starter kits of sorts they can use to search out resources on their own without having to be on twitter.  (My secret wish is they will love these resources so much they will join the rest of us on twitter and/or start a blog to share their own resources with the rest of us).

One quick thing before I give you my top 5 ways to include yourself in the #MTBoS community.  I need to define #MTBoS.  #MTBoS is the name lovingly given to the group of mathematics educators from Pre-K to Post-Secondary who communicate online through twitter and blogs.  #MTBoS stands for ‘Math Twitter Blog O’Sphere’.  There are arguments on how to pronounce this term, but I say #MTBoS as ‘mitt boss’.

Here are 5 ways you can join this community without having to (yet) join us on twitter.

#1  MTBoS Search Engines


Did you know there are custom search engines just for math teachers?  My favorite is one John Steven’s runs at his blog, ‘Set the Hook’.  Stop what you are doing and go there now!  Bookmark it!  Search a few things and see what comes up.  Search ‘exponents’ or ‘quadratics’ or……Each new unit I spend 30-60 minutes here searching the math concepts in my new unit and I always find several useful things to use in my new unit.  I love it more than google because to find these gems you would normally have to go to the 3rd, 8th or 15th page on google (once you get past the resources that pay for the right to be up higher).   I also love Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem-Based Lesson Search Engine.  Bookmark and use this one too. (there is overlap between the 2).  Good stuff.

#2 Ontario Math Links Weekly Email

One of the best ways to get a taste of what the #MTBoS community has to offer is to sign up to receive a weekly email from ‘Ontario Math Links’.  Each week the people at ‘Ontario Math Links‘ curate a set of the best math resources/tweets/links/articles from the past week.  If you would like to receive this weekly email, click HERE and enter your email on the right side of the site.

#3 Global Math Department 

Every Tuesday night at 8pm central time, you can listen in live to an hour of free math PD.  Each week the Global Math Department hosts a math educator sharing something cool with you.  You can just listen as they present or you can type and talk along with other educators about what you are hearing.  If you can’t attend live, no problem.  The next day they post the recording and you can check it out at a time convenient to you.  They take a several weeks off in the summer, but until then you can check out their past recordings.  I did one on ‘engagement’ last summer.  You can check it out HERE.  This year I loved hearing from Peter Liljedahl on ‘Building Thinking Classrooms‘ and also from Rochelle Gutierrez on ‘How our Definitions of Math and Equity relate to Who Excels‘  You can find a list too HERE in a google spreadsheet.

The Global Math Department is FREE mathematics PD any time, any place.  You have no excuses for not becoming an even better mathematics educator.  Promise me you will watch at least one of their online PD sessions this year.  You do need to create a log-in to participate.  If you ‘subscribe’ (upper right) they will also email you reminders of upcoming sessions (I totally recommend this).

#4 Ignite 

Another form of free math PD in the #MTBoS community are 5-minute Ignite talks on you-tube.  Many of these have been sponsored by ‘The Math Forum’ and NCTM.  You can find most of the ignite sessions from the last 6+ years HERE.  Ignite talks are quick (5-min) and given by the best of the best in mathematics education.  I fell in love with them in 2011 when I found this one from Annie Fetter titled ‘Ever notice what they wonder?‘.  If you’ve never seen it, check it out.  Once you find one on youtube, they are all connected.  Go down the rabbit hole.

I also love the more recent ‘Shadowcon’ conference videos from the annual NCTM conference each year.  The 2017 videos are posted HERE.  This fall there will be a way to follow up with these educators to further the study on these topics.

#5 Read a Math-Ed book by a #MTBoS author.

There are a ton of amazing book written (and coming out in the future) by math educators very active in the #MTBoS community.  You can find a list of some of the amazing books available from #MTBoS math educators HERE.  I have lots of favorites on this list, but let me highlight just a few:

‘Nix the Tricks’ by Tina Cardone.  This is a FREE download HERE.  Every math educator needs to read this.

Out this spring is Becoming the Math Teacher you wish you’d had by Tracy Johnston Zager.  This book should become the one you use for a book study with math educators near you.  This is the one I am reading now and loving.

Coming out early August is ‘Motivated‘ by Ilana Horn.  I met Ilana when she came to MN to study kids engaging in math at the MN State Fair.  Lover her.  Here is a partial description of the book: “Participating in math class feels socially risky to students. Staying silent often feels safer. Motivated shows why certain teaching strategies create classroom climates where students want to join in.”

My list would not be complete without Minnesota’s own, Christopher Danielson.  Start with his recent book pair “Which one doesn’t belong” and the companion “Teacher’s Guide“.  So, so good.  this one makes a perfect gift for kids, teachers or student teachers in your life.  Get it today.  I am looking forward to his next book too coming out in the next year (I am hoping in time for holiday gift giving).

Lurkers & Stalkers

A final note.  If you are on twitter and consider yourself a ‘lurker’ or an online ‘stalker’ of the mathematics educators who tweet and blog – THEN YOU TOO ARE A MEMBER OF THE #MTBoS COMMUNITY.  We consider you one of us, even if you don’t ever tweet.  We appreciate you.  Don’t apologize for not blogging or tweeting.  We are all one big community.

BONUS for MN peeps

Even though this post is about engaging in #MTBoS without twitter, I really, really want you to join the #MTBoS community and get on twitter.   It is amazing.  It is the best math PD, period.   I WANT TO HELP YOU JOIN TWITTER.  I know for many of you I could convince you to join twitter and train you in an hour of 1 on 1 help getting you started.  If you are interested in an hour of 1:1 training with me, email me at saravdw@gmail.com.   I am happy to help if you are willing to come to a location near me (twin cities).  The MCTM Communications committee will also be offering some one-on-one sessions.  Look for them advertised on MCTM’s Facebook page and website.   

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